There are some things you can prepare for, and some things you can’t. Every year we prepare for hurricanes and storms, and get extra food and extra water. Just before this past New Year’s, Rome, Georgia, took the brunt of a tornado with a lot of trees down, a lot of damage all over the place. But they didn’t have to declare it a disaster area because Rome was a little prepared. They had their CERT teams go out and help assess the damage, they had aerial photographs so they knew the range of the damage and where it was, and where to direct their resources. Their LEPC was on board with the city’s administration and the emergency manager. It was only in the news for one cycle – because there was no news after that. It was cleaned up and things were taken care of in the community. Their local emergency planning committees – a partnership of the citizens, the administration, and the businesses – had them prepared for unexpected weather in the season ahead.
Looking further out, what does it take to be ready for the future? Part of being prepared is setting goals. While I was serving during the Desert Storm and Desert Shield missions, on one night we had SCUD missiles come in. Several of them blew up nearby, chemical alarms went off, and we were sitting there with our protective masks on, waiting for the alarms to die off and trying to determine if we’d been hit with chemical warfare or just high explosive rounds. We were prepared for that situation, but that night I made a promise to myself: after this war, I’m going to find someplace peaceful and quiet, and I’m going to live there, to make a stake there and do everything I can to make it better. And it became one of my goals.
My example for this was my father, and one of my longterm goals is to do better than he did. Now you have to understand, Hayden Collins, Sr. fought in WW II, survived at Guadalcanal, and then came home and raised the whole lot of us He provided shelter, food, everything within his realm of responsibility. For my mother – because behind every man is a good woman – the challenge was to make sure she was taken care of, the home was taken care of, and the children’s needs were met. His goals were to be prepared – not only for himself and his life, but for his children’s as well.
So my goal is to do better than him. In my eyes, he’s huge, and I’ve got a long way to go. From him, I learned that when you make those promises, you keep those goals for yourself, and they last a lifetime. You have the freedom to achieve those goals, to work at them, and to pursue your own happiness.
Today I have that peaceful place to call home, I’m still pursuing my goals, and doing everything I can to make it better. My family and my community are getting prepared for natural disasters, as much as we can be. I am also working for a better future for my community – to help it be prepared for other kinds of challenges. We don’t have missiles exploding around us in Bartow County, but there is danger nonetheless. As we stand in the middle of economic chaos, there are positive opportunities. What kind of leadership do we need for them?
Those who are the most successful are the ones that recognize those opportunities. I encourage you to be prepared, because once you recognize the opportunity in chaos, you can be ready to take advantage of it. Be an example – for your children and your community. Be ready for the future. And Be About It.